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The central male presence in the novel, Babamukuru is a cold and enigmatic
figure who is difficult to penetrate. While the book’s point of view is
decidedly female, Babamukuru enacts the pressures and duties placed on men
attempting to raise their families’ status and to shake off the specter of
poverty. Babamukuru’s intelligence, ambition, and accomplishments are often
taken for granted by others, as it is the others who reap the benefits of his
hard work without attaining a full understanding of the sacrifices involved. His
dual roles as parent and administrator are often at odds. He uses his job as
headmaster to avoid any form of emotional intimacy with the women who share his
home with him. His relationship with Nyasha is especially fraught, since her
general conduct and academic performance at the mission school reflect his
abilities not only as a father but also as a leader.
From his earliest days, Babamukuru is the pawn of those who have offered
him assistance and opportunity. He feels he has no choice but to accept the
charity that the administrators at the mission school extend to him. After
completing his education in South Africa, he does not want to pursue a higher
degree in England, and he realizes that the hope of a brighter future for his
extended family rests solely on his shoulders. Babamukuru stoically accepts his
duty, even if he risks being viewed as a haughty authoritarian or unsympathetic
bully by dictating what direction his family will take. He may not wish to be
the leader, stern taskmaster, and voice of moral guidance in his family, but if
he does not accept that role, his relatives will not be able to alter their
circumstances on their own. Partly because of Babamukuru’s story and life
experiences, Tambu realizes there are multiple interpretations to the choices
that individuals make and the motives behind those choices.